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Requirements of a Halachik (kosher) conversion to Judaism

Dec 3rd, 2008 by yrobkin | 1

Dear Rabbi Yogi,

I grew up as a Mormon, but have felt increasingly distant from my religion over the last number of years. I am considering conversion to Judaism and want to know what the process involves. Thank you,

Andrea V.


Dear Andrea,

Jewish conversion requires three things: Circumcision (for males only – thank G-d we are not like some of those African tribes!), dunking one’s whole body in the Mikvah waters, and accepting the Torah’s commandments upon oneself. The tricky part with many modern day conversions is that although the would-be converts may have been circumcised by a proficient Jewish mohel (circumciser), and may have dunked in the Mikvah, they may not have accepted all of the commandments upon themselves. This final element of accepting the mitzvos is the central and key element of every conversion. The conversion must “convert” the person’s life!

However, if a non-Jew went through all of the conversion steps but did not change their daily lifestyle by starting to keep kosher, observe the Shabbat, keep the laws of family purity etc., then this person has not converted their life and as such has not become Jewish (see Talmud – Tractate Yevamos, that even the lack of acceptance of one of the commandments invalidates conversion).

Having studied the laws of conversion in depth for a year (I am currently editing a scholarly work on the laws of conversion), many past converts to Judaism have sought counsel with me to find out if their past conversion were in fact kosher, and the startling conclusion that many of these people discover is that although they converted with sincerity and good intentions, they never intended to change their lives to follow the laws of the Torah at the point of their conversion. This detail invalidates conversions, and therefore converts such as these are not considered Jewish in the State of Israel. I do suggest to these understandably distraught individuals to not let this newfound understanding of their past “conversions” pull them away from Judaism. Rather, I encourage them to go forward and proceed with the kosher conversion that they have always wanted. This step will require of them a great level of commitment to abiding by the laws of the Torah, and will not happen over night, but what great things happen over night?

Many would shy away from telling you all that I have informed you about the absolute requirement of accepting the commandments for fear of insulting those rabbis who knowingly convert individuals without ensuring their acceptance of the Torah laws. However, I believe that you deserve to be fully informed so that you can make your decision whether or not to convert with a full plate of facts before you. I also hope that if you do in fact decide to convert that my words will encourage you to choose a rabbi to guide you along the process who is thoroughly learned in the laws of conversion, and who will ensure that your conversion will be complete.

As I write this response to you, I see those who will attempt to politicize my words, and argue that Judaism does not require full observance of the law to achieve conversion, and that what I have written is but one understanding of the law. They may argue that in their opinion, as long as the convert sincerely desires to attach themselves to the Jewish people, takes a course in the synagogue about basic Judaism, and adopts some Jewish customs into their life and home that this is sufficient. This is not the case, as even a cursory reading of the Code of Jewish Law attests to (See Yoreh Deah 268:3 and Chazon Ish Yoreh Deah119:2). The sad truth is that the ones who suffer the most from this mistaken reasoning is the sincere convert who thinks they have fulfilled their conversion duties and have become Jewish, just to discover later in life that another conversion is required (many times the situation is magnified as children have already been born, and will need to convert as well at this point). It is to these individual seekers that my heart is extended.

Good luck upon your journey!

Rabbi Yogi

One Comment on “Requirements of a Halachik (kosher) conversion to Judaism”


  1. Debra said:

    Andrea,

    If you are interested in Judaism, make sure you also look at Bnai Noach, which is bascially “Judaism for gentiles”. You shoul consult the same resources you seek to learn about Judaism (ie Jewish Rabbis, to explain this to you)

    Unlike Christianity, Judaism’s goal is not for all people to become Jewish. Rather Jews are supposed to adhere to Jewish laws, and non-Jews are supposed to adhere to the 7 Noachite laws.

    If you believe in Judaism, and follow the 7 laws that were given to Noah after the flood, Judaism considers you to be a righteous gentile.

    Be sure to inquire about the 7 Noachite Laws also known as Bnai Noach when you discuss conversion to Judaism. An orthodox Jewish Rabbi can tell you more.

    FYI, Bnai Noach is not a cult. It is essentially the original religion – the religion of Adam and Eve. Many people who have investigated in converting to Judaism have decided to become Bnai Noach instead once they were informed of this opportunity.